Archive for October 2010

What is Namazake??

October 4, 2010

Namazake is a term that is commonly seen in Japan, and is becoming more and more common outside of Japan as well, especially in North America. In short, namazake means unpasteurized sake.

Nama is a term in Japanese that has several related meanings, like raw, live (as in live broadcast), natural state … things like that. When the term nama is applied to sake, it means that sake has not gone through the pasteurizing process, in which the sake is momentarily heated to about 65°C or so to kill off enzymes and stabilize the sake.

Nothing could be more pleasantly refreshing in Spring than a glass of namazake. It somehow conveys the essence of Spring, the newness and youth of all of nature. It is available all year round to some extent. But in Spring, just after the traditional sake brewing season has ended, is when it is most commonly seen.

Namazake is usually quite noticeably different from pasteurized sake. It is young and brash, with contrasting flavors and sharper edges, much like a young wine. Often the fragrance is much more lively and apparent, and there is an unmistakable liveliness and freshness to the sake overall. A half year or so of aging would mellow these edges out, and tie the various flavor components together, but young namazake has its own special appeal.

If sake is not pasteurized, it must be refrigerated. This ensures that the temperature will not rise high enough to allow the enzymes to activate. If namazake is not kept cold (like 5-10C or so), there is a good chance it will go bad.

It is interesting to note that the pasteurization process, known as “i-ire”(very loosely translated as “adding the fire” in sake brewing, has been around in Japan since about 1560. This is a good 300 years before Louis Pasteur produced his findings on the subject in France.

Namazake is always labeled as such. Somewhere on the bottle will be the easily-recognizable character for nama, and a note that it must be kept refrigerated.

Namazake is easily available in the Spring at any good sake shop or department store and van be found now too. Remember that namazake must be kept cold, and it should be consumed soon after opening (more so even than other sake). Also note that whether or not a sake is pasteurized is unrelated to the grade of the sake. This means there is good namazake available in any price range.

I hope this post inspires you to give Namazake a try and I’d love to hear what you think about it.

To try this and more than 90 other varieties of Sake, join me at the Sake Professional Course that will be held in Portland, Oregon on November 7, 8 and 9. For more information, click here, or email us at info@sake-world.com.

If you’d like even more recommendations, check out the Sake Notebook.